Assistant apps are applications or programmes which can provide access to information.

They are obtained from the online store specific to your device (for Apple devices this is App Store or for Android it is Google Play).

Assistant apps use augmented reality (AR) to provide a huge variety of services, including GPS navigation, reading printed text, detection of colours and light, recognition of bank notes, images, scenery and faces. Although this is achieved by using the camera on the device, no sight is required to operate the app as spoken feedback is available. 

Setup

Assistant apps like KNFB Reader, Be My Eyes, Seeing AI, Tap Tap See, Giraffe Reader, Blind Square, iDentifi and Soundscape amongst others are widely available on the iOS platform which means that they will work on Apple products like the iPhone and iPad. Some of these apps are also available on Android devices and are expected to become more and more available in due course.

To start using any app it needs to be obtained from the relevant store which means it is installed on to the device. An Apple ID or a Google ID is required along with a password in order for this to happen.

Some assistant apps are available free of charge, some offer a subscription based service and some can be acquired with a one off purchase.

When the download and installation is complete, an icon appears on the home screen of the device and the app can be launched from there.

Use

Assistant apps are used to perform everyday tasks with an enhanced degree of independence. They can allow a sight impaired person read printed materials like letters, magazines and menus, to recognise currency, find out the colour of an item, to identify products using a bar code reader, find out what is around you and hear descriptions of what a scene looks like. The also help to make travelling to one place to another easier using GPS to provide directions, information on landmarks and roads. New assistant apps are being developed all the time and solutions are being created to make many tasks easier.

Verdict

If you want to take control of your own communications, dressing, shopping, transactions and navigation then assistant apps are an easy and quick solution.

No sight is required to operate these apps as spoken feedback is provided to make them accessible. And there are also accessories available to help with different aspects like lining up the camera with the text on a page.

Further resources

Chats about Apps - a podcast series

This series of six podcasts, produced by RNIB's Older People and Complex Needs team and supported by our Technology for Life team, explores the range of simple apps which can be used in everyday life to support people with sight loss.

1: Apps - an introduction

Do you know what an app is and what apps can be used for? There are many apps available and some are incredibly useful, with a variety of uses including listening to music, helping to find train times and communicating with friends and family. There are apps to help magnify print and many more. In this podcast, Linzi and Hannah discuss what an app is and some of the key features of apps. 

Listen to apps podcast 1

2: Apps for independent living

In this podcast, Hannah describes some examples of apps which can help people live as independently as possible. She demonstrates some of these apps and shows what they can do. 

Listen to apps podcast 2

3: Apps for staying in touch

Apps are used by some people every day to keep in contact and communicate with friends, family and work colleagues. To find out more about some examples of apps which can help with keeping in touch, listen to Hannah sharing some helpful examples.

Listen to apps podcast 3

4: Apps for entertainment

Many apps are available for entertainment uses for all ages. From word game apps, jigsaw apps, apps to listen to music and many more. In this podcast, Hannah shares some examples of popular apps for providing entertainment. 

Listen to apps podcast 4

5: Apps for organisation

What apps are already built into your smart phone, or other mobile devices, to help with life admin tasks? Hannah discusses with Linzi some apps which are already built-in to some devices and how they can be useful. They can also be downloaded to give a boost to everyday living, including tools such as calendar reminders, address books, notes and much more. 

Listen to apps podcast 5

6: Apps for getting out and about 

There are many apps available to help assist with planning journeys, buying public transport tickets and checking live bus or train times. Hannah shares some examples in this podcast of some apps she has used and apps which other people use to help them get out and about. 

Listen to apps podcast 6